A couple of months into my time with the Volvo XC60 and I’m more convinced than ever that I previously underestimated the middle child in the Swedish brand’s SUV range.
It definitely doesn’t look as striking as the smaller XC40 or have as much room as the XC90 but I’ve got used to its more subtle looks and, to my surprise, it’s actually fully capable of carrying our family of five in comfort, plus all the rubbish we inevitably lug around with us.
The only slight black mark is the high transmission tunnel that gets in the way of the third rear seat passenger. That aside, there’s plenty of leg, shoulder and head room and all-in-all it’s a really family friendly machine. The big windows and huge sunroof make it bright and airy, which the kids love, and features like the hands-free tailgate and adjustable boot height are nice little aids when you’re wrangling three kids and all their luggage.
Less family friendly is the cream coloured leather upholstery. It looks glorious, especially in concert with the pale wood trim but I’m not sure it’s a great idea in a family car. Even in our short time with it the dye from my jeans had started to rub off on the seats and with sticky fingered kids it won’t take long for it to start looking distinctly grubby.
Sticking with the interior, the XC60 shows what Volvo does so right and what it does wrong. The seats are phenomenally comfortable over any distance and there’s an ergonomic and uncluttered feel to the whole cabin. But that comes at the expense of common sense. The nine-inch portrait screen is quick and easy to use but that’s still no excuse for putting the heater controls there rather than having physical dials or buttons.
Volvo prides itself on its safety and the car is packed with smart collision detection and avoidance tech but forcing drivers to stab at a small portion of a screen is more difficult, distracting and dangerous than turning a dial. Citroen which had a similarly stupid setup has as much as admitted so and put proper controls intp the new C4. Here’s hoping Volvo eventually sees sense.
Rant over and on to other things. Specifically the big Volvo’s petrol/electric drivetrain.
The XC60 is proof that different vehicles suit different people and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to powertrains.
For the most part I’ve been able to roll around on electric power, charging at home most nights at a cost of about £1.50 and dotting between nearby towns on the 23 miles or so of range. It’s all stuff that a full EV could manage with ease. But I’ve also recently had to make several far longer round trips, often on the same day or with no access to a charger overnight. On those days, the reassuring support of the petrol engine has reduced the stress of searching for a suitable public charger at stupid times of the day.
So far, that extreme combination of uses has returned fuel economy in the mid-40s. That’s roughly what you’d expect from a similar-sized car using diesel power and far better than the mid-30s I experienced from a purely petrol equivalent recently.
You can ruin the decent economy by putting the hybrid systems prodigious power to full use, at which point it will lurch towards the horizon like a startled elk. Zero to 60 takes just 5.6 seconds thanks to 335bhp but this isn’t a dynamic car. Performance mode lowers the air suspension for a little more planted feel and increases the throttle response so it will properly shift when asked but while you can drive it quickly it doesn't feel rewarding or engaging. Far better to ease off and treat it as a comfy, wafty and calm thing that just happens to hit 60 quite quickly.
That’s easy to do given the impeccable refinement offered by the adaptive air suspension and laminated acoustic glass that cut out most of the noise and road imperfections. Only a slight tug as the car switches from electric to petrol interrupts a limo-like driving experience.
In fact, the XC60’s quiet, smooth ride is so appealing that faced with more than one test car to use for a journey it’s hard not to opt for the Volvo and every time I return to it from another model I’m reminded again of its myriad strengths.
Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD Inscription
Price: £54,520 (£64,045 as tested); Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol plus A/C electric motor; Power: 335bhp; Torque: N/A; Transmission: Automatic, all-wheel-drive; Top speed: 112mph; 0-60mph: 5.6 seconds; Economy: 100.9-113mpg; CO2 emissions: 55-64g/km